ISBA is the advertiser’s representative in the midst of the self-regulation system.  Supporting effective self-regulation and promoting responsible advertisers is at the heart of our work.

The alternative to effective self-regulation is state regulation.  In most cases self-regulation is easier for consumers to use, comes at no cost to those needing to complain, is faster in delivering results and can make changes to rules swiftly when circumstances change.

The ASA/CAP system in brief

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the independent adjudicator of the rules owned by the advertising industry.  ISBA is the advertiser’s sole representative on both the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).  CAP and BCAP write the rules that all advertisers have to adhere to. CAP and BCAP are advised by an experienced secretariat.  For more information visit  .

ISBA is also the advertiser representative on the levy body – Advertising Standards Board of Finance (ASBOF and BASBOF).  The level of the levy, paid by advertisers (0.1%) and collected by ad agencies buying media, is set and the funds allocated to the ASA based on an annual budget.

The ASA Council, chaired by Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury is independent of the advertising interests.  Council members are appointed under the public appointments system and are fully advertised; there are a majority of lay people on the Council.  Adjudications are published and receive frequent press coverage.  The media are key parts of the system , giving their support to implement ASA rulings and prevent ads that are found against from appearing again.

Europe self-regulation

We in the UK are also members of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), a body of SROs and ad industry representatives throughout Europe.  Increasingly other states from around the world are also affiliating to EASA, spreading the self-regulatory knowledge and the ability to cooperate on cross border complaints.  Visit for more information.  EASA and the WFA have played a significant role in demonstrating to the EU Commission that self-regulation works, is in consumers interests, and fits successfully into different legal traditions.

Global self-regulation – ICC

The UK codes stand alone and advertisers are always advised to refer to them in bringing marcoms to the public.  However our codes are developed from the ICC Global code on Marketing and Advertising.  ISBA is an active member of the ICC global Marketing and Advertising Commission, including involvement with code revision groups.  In the UK the ICC marketing and adverting committee is chaired by ISBA’s public affairs director, Ian Twinn.

The global codes are widely adopted as standards by global advertisers and in some countries the Codes are incorporated into state law.

Co-regulation or self-regulation?

Lastly, for the students of political science and administrative law it is important to understand that when we say that we have a self-regulatory system in the UK it is in fact, for most part, a co-regulatory one.  Our codes implement EU and UK law.  For example, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and UK Consumer Protection Regulations are the foundation of our misleadingness rules and the EU laws on health claims are part of the codes.  The ASA/CAP system is recognised as the ‘established means’ for implementing these laws. There are statutory authorities with the duty to enforce these laws - local trading standards departments and the OFT and Ofcom, but they defer to ASA/CAP.  Where there is a refusal by an advertiser to adhere to the adjudications the backstop regulator can step in.  Equally there are cases involving advertising that are really about fraud or other illegal activities; our ASA/CAP system is no substitute for the criminal law in dealing with rogue traders.